Navigating the New Normal of Office Culture

The coronavirus pandemic affects all of us in big and small ways. Many of us are working from home, some of us for the first time in a long-term capacity. We’re trying to stay as positive as we can, but what if your office culture is one of the things about your job that brings you joy? Here are a few ways you can keep morale high when the world is in panic mode.

When our team needs to blow off steam, we resort to a range of activities, from the never-gets-old nerf gun battles, to themed playlists, to team lunches, to random scenario games. 

Don’t get me wrong, we work hard. We’re in a hybrid business that incorporates politics, marketing, and public affairs so we must keep up with the 24/7 nature of our clients’ needs. We need to play hard to keep motivated. So how do you keep the fun alive in an environment that makes work feel isolating?

Here are a few ways you can connect with your team across the series of tubes:

1. Virtual Theme Days

Just because you’re not in an office together doesn’t mean you can’t do things as an office together. Allow me to introduce virtual theme days. Assign a theme to each day of the week that allows team members to collaborate and keep the good times rolling. 

Music Monday:

We use slack as a collaboration tool, and there are a number of apps you can implement within the platform. Jukebot, for example, allows your team to build a collaborative jukebox to listen to while members telework. You could even pick music themes for the day. May I suggest an “end of the world” playlist? Too soon?

Trivia Tuesday:

Our team has been meeting via video conferencing and playing Jackbox Games by sharing the game owners’ screen and answering questions using prompts on our phones on jackbox.tv and signing into the game room with a room code.  

Would you Rather Wednesday:

There is a game in the Jackbox package called “Split the Room” or you can start a slack thread where people pose their own “would you rather” questions. 

Thirsty Thursday: 

Coordinate a virtual happy hour where team members grab their favorite beverage and meet over Zoom or Google Hangouts to blow off steam. Heck, you can even theme your happy hour… Maybe a Kentucky Derby themed event with a prize for the weirdest hats or bow ties. Go crazy… just not too crazy. 

Fitness Challenge Friday:

We’ve seen a lot of COVID fitness challenges take center stage on social media with friends challenging one another to do 20 push-ups and pass it on. Challenge your teammates to your own fitness challenges. Maybe 15 one-gallon milk curls or toilet paper juggling (juggling for fitness…can you tell its day 14 of telework?).

2. Virtual One-on-One Meetings

Many leaders have standing weekly or bi-monthly one-on-one meetings with staff as a pulse check, and a phone call doesn’t always get the job done. Being face-to-face, even virtually, creates a better bonding experience that fosters feelings of trust and enhances understanding by being able to see facial expressions and gestures that accompany the tone of the conversation. Make sure to set scheduled times in advance so team members can spruce up (if they want). Let’s be real: we’ve all been rock’n the PJ’s pretty hard these past few days.

3. Show You Give a Damn

Call out the small things your team is doing well during the transition. Don’t assume that people know they are doing a good job. Everyone has insecurities and doubts, so make sure to give people a metaphorical pat on the back over slack or any other team chatroom. In our office, one of the partners has a kindergarten style stash of “good job frogs” that are awarded to folks for extraordinary achievements. We may be adult-sized, but we all need positive reinforcement. Implement your own virtual recognition. Be creative!

4. Team Lunches

I know, I know, this quarantine is a real bitch. I haven’t seen the inside of an Olive Garden in 14 days (if you’re not getting a boat of Alfredo with your breadsticks are you really living?). But that doesn’t mean you have to eat solo. Set up virtual team lunches on Google Hangouts or Zoom, and if you have the means, send your team members a digital grubhub gift card to spread the love around.

Unprecedented seems to be the word on everybody’s lips right now. But as we navigate these unchartered waters, it doesn’t have to be “all work and no play.” We’re entering each other’s living rooms, meeting coworkers’ kids and finding out people’s real hair color. Why not make the most of it and bring the office #Togetherapart?